How to recycle solar panels

Veolia opens the first European plant dedicated to recycling end-of-life photovoltaic panels, with a 95 per cent recovery rate.

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are one of the most popular kinds of solar panels. With the threat of global warming increasing, more and more people turn away from fossil fuels and look at renewable sources of energy, including water, wind, and of course solar.

Like most products, solar panels have a certain lifespan, after which they have to be replaced. In 2050, the supply of end-of-life PV panels will reach several tens of millions of tonnes worldwide. But what happens to the old solar panels?

In July, Veolia, PV CYCLE and the Syndicat des Énergies Renouvelables opened the first European factory dedicated to recycling end-of-life PV panels in Rousset, France. The plant will process 1,800 tonnes of material this year, and this quantity will gradually increase to 4,000 tonnes.

Recycling solar panels is well worth the effort, as 95 per cent of materials can be recovered. 2/3 of glass is recovered as clean cullet and is reused in the glass-making sector. The framework, made of aluminium, is recycled for use in the aluminium refinery, plastic is used for fuel in cement works and silicon in precious metal sectors. Cables and connectors are crushed and sold in the form of copper shot.

Photo: AleSpa